It’s certainly not the most surprising development of the 2010 NASCAR season, but it may just be the most disappointing. NASCAR is taking another race away from an historic Southern race track.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, whose second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series date has been on the chopping block for the past few years, has finally had its yearly schedule trimmed down to one NASCAR visit.
The race moves from one track within the Bruton Smith-owned Speedway Motorsports Inc. to another. Kentucky Speedway, who has petitioned for a Sprint Cup date for several years now, has alas earned its much-deserved date.
The unfortunate part is that the date didn’t come from a track that really deserved to lose one.
AMS is one of many race tracks at which attendance has been down the past few seasons. Among those tracks include Auto Club Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, and Pocono Raceway. All of these tracks have two Sprint Cup dates on the 2010 schedule.
But Atlanta had two things going its way that the other aforementioned tracks did not: good racing, and history.
Atlanta is the site of Richard Petty’s last Cup start, and Jeff Gordon’s first. Its spring race was the event in which current NASCAR stars Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards each earned their first career Cup victory.
Atlanta is known for its close finishes, and in spite of its reputation for being a “boring” track, its last few races have included quite a bit of excitement. At least, quite a bit more than tracks like Auto Club and Pocono have to offer.
The problem for AMS was the one thing it didn’t have going its way: politics. The only way Kentucky Speedway was going to get a Sprint Cup date was if a race was taken from another SMI track.
The other SMI speedways include Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Infineon Raceway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Among those, Infineon and Las Vegas are the only two tracks with one Cup date, and both of those tracks have good attendance. In fact, all of the other SMI tracks have good attendance, with the exception of New Hampshire, which is expected to lose one of its Cup dates to Las Vegas next year.
Now, the bigger question: Why could Kentucky Speedway only earn a Cup date from an SMI track? Because the other track owners would not give up a date at one of their speedways in exchange for nothing. After all, what kind of a business decision would that be?
Even though taking a race from the International Speedway Corporation-owned Auto Club Speedway or the independently-owned Pocono Raceway and giving it to the SMI-owned Kentucky Speedway would have been better for the fans, seeing as none of them like Auto Club or Pocono, none of the other track owners wanted to take that kind of a hit in the pocketbook.
And who can blame them?
The sad part is, however, that once again it is the soul of the sport that gets hit the hardest. The Southeast is where NASCAR’s roots are, and where its history was written. And even though Kentucky is still in the Southeast, and deserves a Cup race just as much as the next track, it’s sad that NASCAR is taking more steps in moving the sport away from its roots.
And all because of politics and business.
Atlanta Motor Speedway is losing a race, but it doesn’t deserve to.